Directed by Aaron Katz
Starring: Chris Lankenau, Trieste Kelly Dunn, Raul Castillo, Robyn Rikoon
Release date: February 4, 2011 (limited)
The title of Aaron Katz‘s third feature film, Cold Weather, should not be misinterpreted as being a film about unique snowflakes, blizzards, or sub-zero temperatures, though the film’s setting in Portland does show consistent rainfall and gloomy days, evoking a distant sense of coldness and poignant beauty. It is, after all, traditional Portland weather. But Katz embraces a perspective that showcases his keen eye for finding resemblance in opposite entities. His direction here allows him to intertwine weather and humanity, making them coincide respectively. He draws comparisons from the naturalistic environment he is working in with those emotions that are running rampant within his characters. As Cold Weather is inclined to drain the life out of all plants and make living beings think twice about being out in it, Katz perceives this harsh coldness dwelling within individuals, rendering them emotionally numb and dislocated from the world they inhabit.
There is no doubt that the characters in Cold Weather desire to have their numbness relieved. They are desperately searching for any form of encouragement that has the potential of elevating them out of their current state of uneasiness. In the film’s wonderful opening credits the camera is fixated on a windowpane abundantly covered by raindrops. Slowly do the hundreds of drops cry down the window, slowly dripping away into oblivion. They are fragments looking to be engaged, for no matter how short a period of time, with other drops that would allow them to connect. An engagement is what these drops want.
Doug, Carlos, Rachel, and Gail, young and fragile twentysomethings, represent these fragmented raindrops in search of connection, in search of relationships. All of them want to enter into engagements, be it either with each other or other people, because it would eliminate the miserable feeling of loneliness they are experiencing. They never come out and proclaim they are miserable. The film suppresses such melodramatic outbursts. It is this concealed loneliness, in which we discern through their demeanors and language, which makes them disengaged from conversing comfortably with whomever, making them emotionally cold. This loneliness, though, doesn’t exist in isolation. All experience it and all have the potential to start a relationship amongst the four of them.
A recent college dropout, Doug (Chris Lankenau) decides it’s best that he gives up his forensic science degree for reasons unaccounted for. He moves back home to Portland to live with his sister Gali (Trieste Kelly Dunn) in her apartment, who is single and looking for love on the Internet. She pushes him to get a job, in which he does, working at the local ice factory. “Someone has to pack the ice,” he tells his sister who is disheartened by her brother’s lack of motivation. At the factory he becomes friends with his co-worker Carlos (Raul Castillo). The two seem fit for each other; two aimless men who take a liking to the detective tales of Sherlock Holmes, but more importantly take a liking to the company of one another. When Rachel (Robyn Rikoon), Doug’s ex-girlfriend, enters the picture we have a complete portrait of four youthful individuals in search for connection.
There’s a smart quality to this film. It’s seen in the relationship between Rachel and Doug. Rachel comes to Portland for some business and she decides to meet Doug to talk. Neither of them interrogate the other regarding their past romance together. They just talk and enjoy nights on the town like old friends, a little hesitant on what to say and what to do. This doesn’t last long though. When she doesn’t show up one night at Carlos’ music gig he becomes worried. Carlos gets Doug involved and Doug gets Gali involved in trying to discover, Sherlock Holmes-style, where Rachel disappeared to. The mystery seems like a ploy to only advance the film to its conclusion.
The wonderful depiction of relationships is where this film thrives. It’s the film’s accomplishment. But Katz doesn’t have enough care or maybe just doesn’t have the ability in sustaining this aspect throughout the film. The amount of emotion this Cold Weather demands and is capable of isn’t fully realized. Katz and collaborating screenwriters Brendan McFadden and Ben Stambler overshadow the should-be principle theme with one that is marginally engaging but ultimately lacking in emotion, relevance, and coherence. Aggravation arises as our expectations for the film to continuously deliver scene after scene of delightful melancholy hits a wall, impeding the film on its way to potent effectualness.
**** out of *****